Latest Laney College teach-in empowers students to fight for progress at home and at school
The latest event in the Laney College’s Teach-In Series took place in the Student Center on Nov. 16.
Students, professors, and other community members gathered to eat pizza and discuss the presidential election and local election results—as well as campus improvement suggestions.
“We’re gonna make this place work like it ought to.”
– Peter Brown, Laney Instructor
Ethel Long-Scott from the Women’s Economic Agenda Project (WEAP) and Laney students Marquise Johnson, Brandon Robinson, Arnelle Berry, Alisha Alston, and Jevari Morgan made up one of many small discussion groups.
The intimacy of group discussion allowed each person to share his or her emotional reactions to and interpretations of a Trump presidency.
‘FROM 2016 TO 1958’
For this group, the presidential election was disheartening.
“We’re going from 2016 back to 1958,” Alston said.
“[Donald Trump is] basically gonna run America straight to the ground…He’s not even gonna look out for the lower class people, the middle class people,” Johnson said.
“He’s gonna treat the presidency as a business,” Robinson said.
Some responded to the election by gearing up for radical change in the 2020 election cycle. “There’s a pattern, you know,” Berry said.
In a video played just before group discussion, this pattern was discussed. In other political discussions, it is referred to as the “pendulum.”
It is the idea that politics, like a pendulum, after swinging right will swing left.
The person in the video said, “I would rather have Trump be president for four years, and build a real left wing movement that can get us what we deserve as a people, than to let Hillary be president and we stay locked in the same place.”
The effect of having Clinton as our first female president was interpreted by some to potentially hinder social progress and end conversations about injustices that continue to exist.
“When Obama got elected, people thought racism was over, and like, they moved on, but like when Trump got elected this year it just showed that racism has not died at all,” Robinson said.
“As we speak, the Ku Klux Klan is preparing a parade for Donald Trump. And that just scares a lot of people.”
Andrew Ruiz, a Laney student, spoke about the harm already being caused by allowing Trump’s brand of political rhetoric to trend on our social media sites and contaminate our national conversations.
“We need to keep it in conversation that we are not going to stop looking for equality and respecting diversity,” Ruiz said.
“We deserve an amazing college.”
– Andrea Calfuquir, Laney Student
Magd Yafai was part of a group that spoke mostly about the Electoral College.
He opened the floor to ask why the Electoral College exists today. Tera Neff, Student Senate for California Community Colleges director and ASLC treasurer, responded that she believed James Madison created it to give more power to the slave states.
Neff encouraged more conversations outside comfort zones.
“For a long time, we didn’t speak on things in this country… that make us feel uncomfortable,” she said. “These elections today is the result of that.”
“We said, ‘Oh, that don’t exist,’ or ‘Oh, let’s not talk about that,’ ‘Oh, my neighbor’s gonna be uncomfortable if I talk about being a Black woman,” she continued. “You have to keep moving forward, or nothing will change.”
WEAP’s Ethel Long-Scott has been bringing teach-ins to Laney’s campus for years, and has been fighting for social justice long before that.
She is proud of what is happening at Laney College.
“So many of [Laney’s] students are solid core working class, they struggle… with fighting poverty and working long hours, and trying to get as many study hours as they can,” Long-Scott said.
“When they do additional things like this, I mean, to me, that really typifies a higher level of kinda civic engagement and involvement.”
After discussions of the election, the teach-in shifted focus towards the work left to be done at Laney College. “We deserve an amazing college,” Andrea Calfuquir, Laney student and member of the teach-in planning committee, said.
She reflected on the discussions that had taken place thus far in the teach-in: “This is great, what is happening. This is what we need at Laney.”
Calfuquir added a list of other needs: “We need to get to know each other, we need to start questioning what are the changes that we want, what we need, where the money’s going, why the programs are falling apart, who is advocating to get money for this school?”
Shaun Slaughter, vice president of the Associated Students of Laney College, offered opportunities for students to get involved in shared governance on campus, including a potential housing board, parent support groups, and district meetings.
“I’m a military man, and so after so many meetings I like to move things forward,” he said.
“There’s a district meeting every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. You can bring whatever concerns you have,” Slaughter continued.
“Your voice and your input is absolutely invaluable.”
Nakeesha Bradley raised awareness about the need for public voter education.
“Don’t shoot me, but I didn’t vote,” she said.
“Is there a class that you have that can educate people about voting?”
– Nakeesha Bradley, Laney Student
“I never was educated on that, and it’s like, is there a class that you have that can educate people about voting? Because you know, a lot of people don’t vote because they don’t know how, and they don’t know what to vote for.”
She expressed feeling overwhelmed and confused by propaganda with contradicting messages about voter issues.
Bradley also felt the need for other life skill classes. “Where is the parenting class?” she said. She expressed concern for the “young mothers that are having kids, and they don’t know what to do.”
Other students expressed the need for services to reach other unmet needs. Mia Wilensky asked about disabled services and outreach on campus. She explained that for people with mental illness or disability, “it’s really hard to explain what you need.”
Ak-Maval Sabyr, an international student and Math tutor at the Math Lab, said that the salary for tutors should be raised, and that there should be more positions available on campus for international students who have difficulty finding work.
Yafai took the mic again to express the need for comfortable amenities, like Berkeley City College’s nap room, so that people like him who work 42 hours a week can find relaxation on campus between classes.
Andrea Calfuquir encouraged those who expressed the desire to improve the Laney College campus for its student body.
“We have the power to do change,” she said.
Peter Brown, who has been instrumental in organizing teach-ins on campus, and who is helping to start a Social Justice Club with Calfuquir, agreed.
“We’re gonna make this place work like it ought to,” he said.